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State Department Backpedals on Blackwater


Hey, good morning everyone.

People in the Bay Area got a bit of a scare last night. Around 8 o'clock in the evening, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake shook San Francisco and surrounding areas. The epicenter was about nine miles northeast of San Jose, but residents reported feeling the quake as far east of Sacramento and north up to Sonoma. At this point, there are no reports of major damage or injuries. It was the strongest tremor in the Bay Area since 1989, when a 7.1 earthquake killed 62 people.


So up till now, the top Democratic presidential hopefuls have been playing somewhat nicely together. But during last night's debates in Philadelphia, the gloves came off and the target was a certain senator from New York.

NPR's David Greene was there.

DAVID GREENE: Both Barack Obama and John Edwards took on Hillary Clinton. They accused her of misleading voters and blurring her positions on issues. Edwards said Clinton is trying to have it both ways when it comes to the war in Iraq.

Mr. JOHN EDWARDS (Former Democratic Senator, North Carolina; Presidential Candidate): She says she will end the war, but she continues to say she'll keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq. To me, that's not ending the war, that's the continuation of the war.

GREENE: Clinton said she and her challengers are really in agreement when it comes to Iraq. She said they all want most troops out, but see a need for some U.S. military personnel to remain to battle al-Qaida. Clinton's campaign e-mailed reporters after the debate and said her rivals took swings at her, but missed.


MARTIN: That was NPR's White House correspondent, David Greene.

In other news, the U.S. State Department is on damage control. Earlier this week, State Department officials admitted some of its investigators overstretched their authority by giving immunity to some Blackwater USA guards involved in the September shooting in Baghdad in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed. Yesterday, a State Department official said their agency doesn't have the power to immunize anyone from criminal prosecution.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates agreed to a plan that will put private security firms working in Iraq under the control of the U.S. military. The new guidelines will be presented to General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker in Baghdad before they get final approval.

And finally today, we say goodbye to a legend.

(Soundbite of TV commercial for ESPN)

Mr. ROBERT GOULET (Singer, Actor): When it comes to live entertainment, you got dinner theater, that performance-art hippie crap, and NCAA basketball on ESPN, buster.

MARTIN: Robert Goulet was a lounge singer's lounge singer who had no problem poking fun at himself, as he did in this Emmy Award-winning commercial for ESPN in 1996.

(Soundbite of TV commercial for ESPN)

Mr. GOULET: (Singing) …that remote, buster. They got all the great games…

MARTIN: The dark-haired Las Vegas legend died yesterday in Los Angeles while awaiting a lung transplant. Goulet was diagnosed with a serious lung disease last month. The singer made a name for himself as Lancelot in the original "Camelot" in 1960, then went on to win awards for his work in movies, TV and Broadway.

Alex Witchel wrote about Goulet in the New York Times Magazine in 1993, and he said, quote, "Something about his voice evokes old times and romance. He makes you remember corsages." Robert Goulet was 73.

That's the news, and it's always online at

BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.

STEWART: I want to be Robert Goulet.


Goulet - I said I wasn't going to do that, and then I did it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: One of the appreciations I read of him said that his wife said he kept his humor up to the very end when they were putting a - something down his throat, you know, like an air tube or something…

STEWART: Right. He needed a lung transplant.

BURBANK: He said, just watch the vocal chords.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Robert Goulet.

STEWART: He will be missed.

BURBANK: Absolutely.

MARTIN: He will be missed, indeed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.